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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Free Radical

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'Haze' (PS3) Developer Interview

by Rainier on July 14, 2007 @ 10:21 a.m. PDT

Twenty-five years in the future. Governments have outsourced military operations to private multinational corporations. As Jake Carpenter, a newly enlisted soldier in the Mantel army, you are seeking fulfillment and thrills by fighting for a good cause. Thanks to their high-tech arsenal of vehicles, deadly weaponry, and performance enhancing bio-medical support, the Mantel Corporation’s ruthlessly efficient soldiers are the most feared by terrorists, dictators, and the corporation’s political enemies.

[RY]: - Rob Yescombe, Screen Writer
[DL]: - Derek Littlewood, Creative Director
[SE]: - Dave Doak, Director at Free Radical Design

Q: Please give us a short overview on HAZE. What is the story behind it?

Haze is set in the year 2048. There is a war going on in a region of South America, where a group of vicious rebels called The Promise Hand are trying to overthrow the government, and replace them with their leader: Gabriel ‘Skin Coat’ Merino.

Skin Coat is so-called on account of the fact that he flays and strips the skin off his enemies, and has the pieces fashioned into crude leather, from which he makes his ‘coat’. Obviously, a maniac like him needs to be stopped as soon as possible, so thankfully, Mantel Global Industries has set its private army in to deal with the problem.

You play as Sergeant Shane Carpenter, a Mantel trooper whom I hope is like most of us: a good guy, who wants to do good things for good people in bad places. Carpenter is transferred into the area mid-way through the conflict, and is taken under the wing of his peer – Sergeant Morgan Duvall.

As Carpenter’s dependence on Nectar grows, so does the nagging feeling that the orders he’s following might not be as ethical as he was lead to believe…

Q: What is Nectar? Could this really happen in the future?

As far back as the Vietnam War, there have been rumors that psychotropic drugs were being used on soldiers to try and make their experience more ‘pleasant’. Of course, those rumors are unsubstantiated, but they’re certainly food for thought. But what HAZE, and more specifically Nectar, is really about is censorship - the idea that someone is in a position to decide what we should or shouldn’t see. Taking Nectar ensures that the Mantel soldiers experience war in a sanitized, ‘video game’ form. The only thing that helps keep violence on the outskirts of most societies is the psychological ramification that the perpetrator suffers. Cutting someone’s head off can be fun in a video game, because it doesn’t affect you – it’s not real. So, what Nectar does is allow Mantel soldiers to draw a line between themselves and their actions. What the Promise Hand does for Shane Carpenter is rub that line out and force him to face the reality of what he’s been doing.

That kind of censorship exists in everything from movies to the daily news. So, in that sense, Haze isn’t about something that could happen – it’s about something that, metaphorically speaking, is happening right now.

Q: Why did you guys decide to release exclusively this Holiday on the PS3?

Free Radical has always been a PlayStation developer at heart, thanks to our experiences developing the TimeSplitters series. We have a wealth of experience working with PlayStation technology, and perhaps are in a position to get to grips with the raw power of the PS3 a little faster than other developers. We see Haze as our opportunity to stamp our pedigree onto the new generation, and the PS3’s power, and particularly its online support, are going to be invaluable bearing in mind the kinds of multiplayer functionality we want to bring to Haze.

Q: What is the big announcement that you are doing about Haze at E3?

The rumors are correct. You do switch sides in Haze. But it’s not just about turning your gun on your colleagues – Haze is literally two games in one, right out of the box. When you start off, you’ll be using the high-tech Mantel suit and weaponry, playing in a very gung-ho video-game style. That’s the perfect way to get to grips with the basics of the game, but once you switch sides, and join The Promise Hand, you won’t have all that technical support – you’ll have to learn to play more tactically, and use some real teamwork with your squad mates. Playing as a rebel really where expert players are going to get their kicks. It’s far more dangerous, with many more facets to the gameplay, so you’ll need to learn to improvise and hone your skills to survive.

Oh, and we need to confirm another rumor: yes, Haze will be a PS3 exclusive.

So far we haven’t talked at all about the final and pretty significant plot twist in Haze – apart from just changing sides. But that will have to remain a secret for now.

Q: What will you gain fighting alongside the Rebels (Promise Hand) and against Mantel?

The most important difference, is the role of Nectar depending on which side you’re fighting for. As a Mantel trooper, Nectar is your best weapon - you need to take it in order to make yourself tougher, faster and more accurate. However, and here’s the twister, as a rebel you’ll find that understanding Nectar is your best weapon against Mantel. Here’s what I mean: there are a number of ways to force Mantel soldiers to Overdose on Nectar. You can strap Nectar packs onto grenades, and make a huge cloud of Nectar gas; you can shoot the soldiers in their Nectar packs; or, most fun of all, you can smear Nectar on a knife and throw it into a bad guy. Making a Mantel soldier Overdose causes them to freak out – amongst other things, they’ll start firing at everyone, friend and foe; or they might just shoot themselves in the head; or hug a grenade until it blows up; or try and blow off their own feet with a rocket launcher. So, sending one Mantel soldier into Overdose when he’s with his squad mates is tantamount to setting off a smart bomb.

And! The best part is, all the Nectar Overdose aspects don’t just happen to A.I characters – it can happen to you in single player, co-op, and on the multiplayer maps.

The final way that Rebels can take advantage of Nectar is by Playing Dead. Nectar censors reality for Mantel, so just like in a video game they don’t see blood, and dead bodies simply disappear. So, by pretending to be dead, the rebels disappear from the Mantel trooper’s view as if they were just another corpse. This, of course, allows the rebels to get the drop on a Mantel soldier.

Q: What dark truths will you uncover about Nectar and or Mantel?

Haze is just the tip of the iceberg. Carpenter is not some superhero who’s going to discover the inner-workings and industrial secrets of a multi-billion dollar corporation and bring them down. But what he will do is learn something about himself, and about his perception of war. Maybe, just maybe, the player will too.

Of course, there are secrets you will learn - in fact, there’s a rather important one in particular - but if I told you then they wouldn’t be secrets, would they?

Q: How does the switch pertain to the overall story of the game?

No one likes to feel that they are being controlled. As much fun as it is to be a Mantel trooper, kicking ass with wild abandon, you will still feel that there is a level to the game that you are being denied. It takes you breaking away from the influence of Mantel, and Nectar, in order to see what that is.

Q: How will the Rebel abilities offset the Mantel soldiers’ Nectar abilities?

You already know about the abilities that Nectar gives to the Mantel soldiers: better aim; faster speed; able to inflict and receive more damage; and that famous ‘Melee Blast’ - a huge melee attack that sends the poor victim flying. But as a Promise Hand rebel, beyond the ability to use Nectar against Mantel, you will acquire several new skills. Specifically:

  1. SCAVENGE: This allows you to recalibrate ammo from other guns to fit yours. So, if you have a particularly great weapon that you love using, you don’t need to throw it away when you run out of ammo. You can just refit other bullets to fit your mag.
  2. DIVE & ROLL: Once you’re out of that heavy Mantel armor, you’ll be less protected, but thankfully you’ll be freed up to move faster and more acrobatically.
  3. TRAPS: Pretty self-explanatory - you learn to set traps, like hiding grenade-mines under the dirt.
  4. PLAY DEAD: This one is great fun. When you’re being fired at, if you time it right, you can fall to the ground writhing in fake agony. Once your opponent turns their back, just leap to your feet and plug a shot in his head. The reason why it’s so effective is because Nectar censors death and blood for the Mantel troopers – Just like in a video game, it makes the bodies disappear. So, by pretending to be dead, the rebel disappears from the Mantel trooper’s point of view.
  5. WEAPON STEAL: A little kung fu goes a long way. If you can get close enough, you can wrestle the gun from your opponent’s hands, and turn it back on them.
  6. NECTAR GRENADES/ NECTAR KNIFES / NECTAR PACK SHOTS: As I was saying before, the rebels have a number of ways to force Mantel troopers to Overdose. The Nectar Grenade is particularly awesome fun in a crowded room – making everyone turn on each other uncontrollably.
  7. REVIVE: As a rebel, you’ll need all the help you can get. So, if one of your team gets injured, you can give them medical aid, and get them back on their feet.

Q: Will you have access to different weapons when playing the Rebels than on Mantel’s side?

Other than all the ways to use Nectar against the Mantel guys, the rebels have their own weapon set. We’ve made a point to keep the weapons as realistic and ballistic as possible. We didn’t want to have some crazy laser gun in there. The reason behind this thinking is that really, Nectar is your best weapon whether you’re with Mantel or The Promise Hand. It’s all down to how you use it.

Q: What other tools/gadgets that you will gain by fighting along side the Promised Hand?

Well, as well as a whole new weapon set, and all the unique ways to turn Nectar against Mantel, you’ll also get new rebel vehicles to cruise around in.

Q: What will be the role and importance of your teammates when on the Rebel side?

As a Mantel trooper, you don’t really need anyone. You’ll have a squad with you, but whether they live or die isn’t of great importance to you because Nectar makes you so damn tough. But, as a rebel, you need as much firepower as possible to take down the Mantel guys. Hence why you’ll have to learn to give your teammates medical aid if they get hurt.

Q: How will the storyline and gameplay work together?

The entire experience is absolutely free from loading screens. You could buy the game on the day of release and play through the entire campaign mode without ever having to stop and wait for something to load. What’s more, the whole game is in first person. We don’t cut away into some special cinematic to tell the story. We want to keep you locked – trapped even – inside the head of Shane Carpenter. We think that telling the story this way will ensure a level of immersion that you might not normally get from a First Person Shooter.

You’ll be seeing some pretty unpleasant events unfold in Haze, and taking the player out of Carpenter’s head to show them to you allows you to disassociate yourself from what’s going on. But we don’t want that – we want you to feel responsible, claustrophobic, maybe even guilty.

Q: When will the game be released?

November 2007.

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